March 2nd, 2014
01:44 PM ET

How U.S. should respond to Russia

By Fareed Zakaria

In a strange act of historical coincidence, it is 60 years ago this week that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed the Crimea over to the Ukraine. It might not have seemed a big deal in those days – everyone was part of one big, unhappy Soviet Union. But that act has created today’s geopolitical crisis.

Russia has now made its move. It has essentially detached Crimea from the Ukrainian government’s control. What remains unclear is what Vladimir Putin wants to do with it. Incorporate it into Russia? Use it as leverage to negotiate a deal with Ukraine? Both?

In any event, Washington’s response should be clear and forceful. Russia has violated all kinds of laws and norms, including most crucially, a treaty that it signed with Ukraine guaranteeing that country’s borders, in return for which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.

For Washington, for Americans, for people around the world, it would be a terrible precedent to allow issues like this to be resolved not through diplomacy, but by force. If Russia could detach parts of neighboring countries with impunity, won’t other great powers like China decide that they too can act in such ways?

So what can be done? Well, for starters President Obama should cancel entirely his attendenace at the G-8 summit to be held in Sochi in June. He should try to persuade the other major powers to follow suit. Russia’s membership in the G-8 should be suspended. Remember,  the G-8 was created to recognize that post-Soviet Russia was behaving like an honorable member of the international community, not a rogue state . If the behavior has changed, Russia’s status should also change.

Militarily there is less that can be done. After all, Russia’s military budget is about 18 times that of Ukraine. But NATO should restart talks on providing assurances to countries like Poland – including perhaps building the missile defense system that was abandoned.

In economic terms, Washington and the EU should consider the only sanctions that would be effective: ones targeted specifically at individuals who could be held responsible for these acts of aggression against Ukraine.

Washington cannot do much to stop Vladimir Putin as he creates facts on the ground in Crimea. But step back and consider what a strategic disaster this is for him. Ukraine has slipped out of his orbit and most of the population there is going to be hostile to Russia for generations. Countries like Poland that had eased up relations with Moscow will now view it with great suspicion. All European countries will put their relations with Russia under review. Even China will surely oppose the brazen violation of national sovereignty, something Beijing is always concerned about. Within Russia people have seen that Putin is terrified of a democracy movement and will brutally oppose it, not really the image he wants to present.

So Putin gets Crimea, which is only 60 percent Russian. Parts of it will be deeply hostile to this Russian takeover – including the population of Crimean Tartars, who are Muslim and getting radicalized. Remember, Crimea is in the Northern Caucasus, the area where Russia has been battling a ferocious Muslim insurgency.

So even as he lines up one more piece – or half piece – on his chessboard, Putin will find that the price he has paid for it will be quite high.

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (1,638 Responses)
  1. jatt_khalsa_fauj

    you're nothing but an anglo saxon nwo puppet shill

    March 4, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  2. jatt_khalsa_fauj

    look how wide this animals lips/mouth are... you know how many white dongs he had to stuff in there to get his job?

    March 4, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  3. русская украинка

    Скажите, пожалуйста, нарушала ли я правила поведения, изложенные в ваших условиях предоставления услуг? Если да, то какие именно, если нет, почему удалили мой пост? Где ваша хваленая свобода слова? А еще говорите, что США- правовое государство! Это ваша демократия!?

    March 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Reply
    • quash

      А что вы написали?

      March 6, 2014 at 11:36 am | Reply
  4. Johan

    Has USA done something like this before??? Remember???

    March 4, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  5. mathew

    Zakaria, is a pakisthani guy who is trying to fuel the situation and get US burn the figure. Bomb comes in different ways. Obama you are great, think before you act

    March 4, 2014 at 11:34 pm | Reply
  6. Seize

    "Remember, Crimea is in the Northern Caucasus, the area where Russia has been battling a ferocious Muslim insurgency."

    Really? Crimea is northern Caucasus? Zakaria could be wrong this time. Crimea is separated by the Black Sea so it's not even in the Caucasus. The Crimea is surround by Russia and so inside of Russian influence. Since when was there an Muslim insurgency in Crimea.

    March 5, 2014 at 6:23 am | Reply
  7. Liusia

    "Remember, Crimea is in the Northern Caucasus .." Well, I did respect Fareed's posts so far but since now – no way! Fareed, do not ashame the Harvard University! Before writing such geographical nonsense, click Google map, take a look if you were not able to learn geography in school, like most Americans. It sounds like "Oklahoma City is in California". One more journalist proved his complete incompetence, alas!

    March 5, 2014 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • Mathias

      Posts like this brhtegin up my day. Thanks for taking the time.

      July 7, 2014 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • Betyta

      Plaiseng to find someone who can think like that

      July 21, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • Edi

      Before we get all antsy the other theory is that it is a gloiifred robbery where the accused has tried a clock work orange defence to blame some other thing for influencing behaviour.Plus there is this bitThe Telegraph reports police allege the teen suspect has a long history of mental health problems and he had developed an unhealthy and unrequited obsession with Ms Koren. VA:F [1.9.20_1166](from 0 votes)

      July 25, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  8. Maria

    Unbelievable! Crimea is in the Caucases? How ignorant the auther can be? Did he study geography of the region at all?
    As for the US opinion about invading the independent states-it is hillarious. They have absolutely no right to advise anything. What about Grenada, Iraq, other places???

    March 5, 2014 at 9:30 am | Reply
  9. Benjamin

    Technicly Russia has no troops in crimea they are only helping the self defence forces that asked russia to help the oppressed russian ethnic poputation

    March 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  10. forest

    Rediculous. Putin and Russia will pay no price other than to cement their role in Crimea. Sorry Obama but checkmate! You screwed the pooch and have absolutely no leverage. Freeze assets? Russia Freezes assets, Germany loses its big economic partner? Think not! Follow the money and go on to your wonderful leadership in Middle East Peace. Welcome back to the Jimmy Carter Days!

    March 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  11. Max21c

    Obviously they got to Fareed and he's been brainwashed by the nutty pro Cold War 2 crowd and the Russia Hawks!

    The enemy is not in Moscow. The problem is not in Moscow. The problem is in Kiev. The enemy is the fascists per Svoboda, and the other bands of violent radicals, zealots, and ultra-nationalists.

    The hardline should not be against Russia and Putin but against Kiev. The problem is in Kiev not Moscow.

    When the ethnic cleansing starts you Elites shall beg the Russians for Russian peacekeepers and Welcome the Russian army. Let's hope it doesn't start. But you folks are so naive and so wrong!

    March 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  12. Anna Bensabat

    Fareed, you don't know what are you talking about. You don't even know basic go graphics, sad.
    Please, read this material by Jack Matlock, a former US ambassador to Russia and maybe you'll be able to get some enlightenment. file:///Users/AnaIsa/Desktop/jack%20matlock.webarchive

    Wolf Blitzer is the only one trying to do some sort of honest job on the Ukrainian crisis, on CNN.

    March 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  13. Anna Bensabat


    March 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  14. Anna Bensabat

    Professor Coen knows what he is talking about and dared to say it:

    March 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  15. Andrey

    This time USAID really screwed Ukraine up! And not only Ukraine: if you play with fire, not be surprised when you get burned!

    March 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  16. Andrey

    And that is what BBC has to report about Ukrainian Nazi controlling Kiev and being a part of the new Ukrainian "government":

    March 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  17. Cali girl

    And look who is talking... double standards anyone? US leaders need to look in the mirror first before blaming others, they do exactly same things...violating all kinds of laws, treaties etc... first solve your own problems imho

    March 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  18. Ted Ward

    Putin is playing chess alone in one of his gigantic tacky neoclassical villas, while the rest of the world is just trying to live their lives and build a better world.

    March 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Reply
    • philos

      Surely USA is bullding "better world" everywhere they go..

      March 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Reply
      • Ted award

        At least the Americans try.

        March 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm |
      • smitty

        america does build a better world everywhere it goes it goes with good intentions and interests, those that bash america never witnessed freedom or are anarchist at heart
        you think china and russia would build better worlds lol look at them they try to silence their people for speaking out and wanting freedom they don't care about their health they let them slowly die they throw them into labor camps people that bash america

        March 8, 2014 at 9:36 am |
      • Mazo

        America would like us to think so.

        It's one rule for the rest of the world and another for America. When America invades countries it is for "supporting democracy", "protecting human rights" and "fighting terrorism" even when they do so illegally and without UN approval.

        Even the sanctions on Iran are not UN sanctions – they are "America's" sanctions.

        March 10, 2014 at 5:58 am |
      • Ike

        Sarcasm....loved it!

        March 12, 2014 at 3:57 am |
      • Ike

        Its very true. America is good for its own people but not to the people of other countries! US creates too much trouble in other countries especially to those countries who disagree with her. However, USA is still a better place to live than say most EU countries and Russia.

        March 12, 2014 at 4:06 am |
    • philos

      Ordid you mean new world order (American bankers rule)?

      March 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Reply
      • Burstbubble

        You said American banks, yet I believe you would be more accurate if you said the World Monetary Fund or WMF for short. The world banks are taking over and it isn't a good thing. Regarding the article.... it is sort of interesting what Fareed said. Perhaps a guerilla war will start in Crimea in the near future?

        March 13, 2014 at 6:07 am |
    • Angry Person

      I don't get it. The Russians took over another country and we are saying that this can't be done...but it is being done. They are saying the US can't do much but watch. Do they really think Putin cares about sanctions. Half of Europe depends on his natural gas. This is absurd, NATO only preys on small fish.

      March 6, 2014 at 1:33 am | Reply
      • Brian

        Sanctions worked with Iran, which is hardly a "small fish" and though they may take longer with Russia, standing by and doing nothing against aggression leads to more aggression. Appeasement doesn't work.

        March 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
      • Arthur

        Hi, i`m not an american or ukrainien or russian, this is just an opoin, my beleaf is once russia tool in snowden and who no`s who else, before anyone knows it puttin is going to make russia into a sankuary for anyone who can provide importent information or anything like that, its clear puttin is going to do what ever the hell he wants too, after all what was done to stop snowden or any other turncoat who wants to committ treeson, many years ago you would get shot for smoething like that, nowadays to many countrys are getting way to soft and letting our countrys go to hell.Not canada not america and so many more are just letting the people do as the please nad or countrys are going to hell, and the russians have there own way of dealling with people like snowden and other wesils like him, and I bet if you were to serch all of russia you would`nt find another like putin, I don`t like the guy for the way he treaats the ordenery people of the world he thiks he`s so much better than,putin would find some way be it in a secret assination or what not and nobody woud be the wiser, so if the world wants to stop someone like putin were going to have to take a page out of his own rule book and eather take him and his murdering croneys out all together or put them somewhere where they can`t do this kind of damage to anyone else. The countrys in this world train soliders for this pacific purposs, lets put them to the use they trained for, I honestly think putin has used up his use, hes doing more damage to the world the good,its time he was kicked out on his ass so he can`t do any more.

        March 7, 2014 at 9:04 am |
      • Mazo


        You are right Appeasement doesn't work – That is why the world should apply sanctions on the USA for its continued land grab of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. For its continued military presence in Iraq, for its murdering of innocent civilians in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And finally for its global illegal surveillance programs.

        All these are "against international laws". Its' funny how Americans talk about "appeasement" when the USA breaks international laws as a matter of course day in and day out. You can only preach what you practice.

        March 10, 2014 at 6:02 am |
      • Viktor

        mr. Angry Person and other "good" USA citizens, how do you know what is better for Ukraine or Russia? You are there and I'm among this disastrous events, and you from other side of the globe give us peaces of advices. Please explain me what do your military forces do in Iraq, Siria, Libia. Why had you bombed Yugoslavia? I'm sure you do not have just answer. Let's go next – imagine that next week mr Obama would be pushed aside by army of terrorists and these terrorists would proclaim them as new "government" and immediately after that Russia would say: Fine – we like the new government, we'll give them money, we know that it is unjust and against the law, but it is convenient for us. Half of my family live in Ukraine and half in Russia and all people are extremely worried about the situation, but you – people who live on another planet and watch cnn in your chairs, do not even think to interfere, there are hell of problems without you.

        March 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
    • loki

      Look, lately the U.S has been invading other countries based on false allegations. To me that sound a lot more crucial than Putin stepping on his own soil. Again the U.S government has authorized the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. They killed him without fair trail and falsely accused him of murder....I ask any american citizen to bring the evidence of such allegations...there is none. NEVER was there any weapons of mass destruction found...but many men, women and children are dead.

      March 6, 2014 at 7:25 am | Reply
      • smitty

        us doesn't invade countries it goes in to save the people when their leaders are massacring their own people or invading neighboring allied or non allied countries, now the us never wants iraq or any other country to be part of the united states of america unlike putin which is an ex kgb general who wants to bring back the usssr america never does that in return all it simply asks for is a military base which is understandable when you are obligated to bring peace and order to the world, russia will get a butt whooping if they go to war america has them surrounded on all fronts and other nations will join in putin is absolute evil and he will be the reason russia falls.......

        March 8, 2014 at 9:26 am |
      • Mazo


        ROFL Typical American nonsense that nobody with a brain will believe. America goes in to "save people" ?? Putin has also gone to "save people" in Crimea – the ethnic Russians who he claims are being persecuted.

        In fact Putin has more legal cause to enter into Ukraine than George W Bush had to invade Iraq. Putin had a written request for Ukraine's legal president while America had NO legal request from anybody.

        March 10, 2014 at 6:05 am |
      • mqidas

        u are 100% correct

        March 12, 2014 at 2:12 am |
    • Ralban

      1st, put a muzzle on Hilary and keep McCain in a closet. Then we need to stay out of their business.

      March 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Reply
    • John Smythe

      If ever one needed confirmation that ignorance is bliss, then Ted Ward's comment is just that.

      March 8, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Reply
    • The Loyal Maoist

      We Chinese are ready to defend the interests of our people who farming settlers (most illegal immigrants) in the Eastern region of Siberia. The part of Siberia where our Chinese compatriots have been keeping themselves busy in exploiting the fertile land are several times larger than the entire area of Unkrein. Pretty soon, we will follow the example of our big brother Putin to move our people's armies into Siberia to defend our people, i.e. to save them from oppression and slavery in the hands of Western barbarian. .

      March 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Reply
      • Bitter Pill

        I think China should lay claim to all of Russia east of the Ural Mountains.

        March 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
    • topsecret

      Invasion of Crimea is a cover up for a search of an alien spacecraft that crashed last Feb 15, 2013.

      March 10, 2014 at 12:12 am | Reply
    • Larry Hodge

      America engineered this.

      March 10, 2014 at 6:38 am | Reply
  19. BUtch

    What a total puff piece of propaganda. You have to know nothing of the history of this conflict, the players motives ot the history of the region to swallow this junk. Come on CNN. Where is your journalist integrity? I sure miss Ted.

    March 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Reply
    • loki

      Just quit it with the soap opera act CNN.

      March 6, 2014 at 7:28 am | Reply
  20. menisino

    You simply cannot negotiate with liars & Putin ; Lavrov ; their U.N. rep. are habitual liers. Only a total LOCKDOWN of Russia will work .Stop buying gas from Russia, there are other options. Merkel is creating a huge problem that will eventually cost the E.U./ U.S. a lot more down the road money & lives..

    March 5, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Reply
    • philos

      Noother option for half of Europe – no capacity to transfer that ammount of gas..

      March 5, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Reply
    • Mazo

      LOL Stop buying gas from Russia ? Why don't you stop buying oil from the Middle East before you give high minded and self righteous lectures to other people in other parts of the world ??

      It is easy to make such ridiculous recommendations – reality is quite different. Russia is the largest source of natural gas on the PLANET. Without Russian gas, Europe would freeze to death or go bankrupt buying energy. Ukraine buys Russian gas, Germany buys Russian gas, even France, Netherlands and UK use Russian gas.

      March 10, 2014 at 6:09 am | Reply
  21. RLTJ's

    " It has essentially detached Crimea from the Ukrainian government’s control" that may be one way of saying it.

    Crimea does not recognize Kiev. That's another way of putting it.

    March 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • oscar

      Wait, what? If Canada moved troops into New York, would you say "New York does not recognize Washington"?

      March 5, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Reply
      • meh

        "Wait, what? If Canada moved troops into New York, would you say "New York does not recognize Washington"?"

        Oscar, What if the majority of New York citizen did not want to be part of the US because they felt US policies did not have their best interests in mind, and had an historical, more political aligned connection with Canada? Would it be wrong for Canada to move troops to New York to ensure that the transition to their own country (or to become part of Canada). What if there had been recent violent protests by people who are strongly against New York's political stance? So the people of New York did feel threatened?

        From what I understand the people of Crimea do not recognize the current Ukraine government, and they didn't before this Russian "invasion."

        March 8, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
      • Mazo

        That analogy is not in ANY WAY even remotely similar to the Russia-Crimea dynamic.

        New York has NEVER been part of Canada, where as Crimea has ALWAYS been Russian for the last 300 years. A better analogy would be Texas ceding from the USA to join Mexico by holding a referendum.

        March 10, 2014 at 6:13 am |
  22. RLTJ's

    Strike Russia or be further humiliated. That is what this article is saying.
    Because I think Russia will hold ground in Ukraine.

    March 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  23. Hank

    You're right. The US can't do anything about Russia's forces in Crimea. You know why? Because there is a bilateral agreement between Crimea and Russia allowing for Russian forces to be in Crimea, and that has been on the books since before Yanukovych was ever President. This is why NO ONE has any say in Russian forces being in Crimea. And that my friends is why Putin is just sitting back taking it all in and shaking his head at why all the drama. He has the right under legitimate bilateral agreements to be there. It amaze me that people actually are calling this an INVASION.

    March 5, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Reply
    • Danny

      I would consider a sudden, massive, unprecedented move of over 16,000 Russian troops into Crimea an invasion, without a doubt. They may have a technical, legal "right to be there" but no one can consider this anything other than a highly aggressive act by Russia, and possibly a prelude to war.

      March 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm | Reply
      • Tomcat

        As I understand it, they can have up to 25,000 troupes under the agreement. They normally as I understand did not have anywhere near that, so this increase may be unusual and somewhat unprecedented. However, the area historically, at least for the past couple of centuries has been Russian and only has not for the past few decades. Furthermore, while many may not like what they see so far it is as I understand not in violation of their agreements. The only issue may be the upcoming vote to join Russia, and lack of discussion with the government. Although with the elected government no longer in power, this leaves some area open for opinion and discussion as well.

        March 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
    • tanushka

      Hallelujah. finally someone understands. i cannot believe the crap i have been reading. where do people come up with such lies about Russia invading and Russia has started a war ect ect....what is happening should not be difficult to understand. Putin is protecting Russians. the US as usual is working hard at creating lies to cause hatred and further destruction. the US wants a war, and if they get what they have been asking for they will lose to Russia. the US needs to concentrate on their own failing country. the economy of the US is shot to pieces. use your money that you keep borrowing to help your people first or if no one is going to lend you any more money than do what you do best and start printing it again. screwed up USA

      March 8, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Reply
      • Tomcat

        I don't think the US or anybody wants a war. Too messy, too high a cost for all involved and not nearly enough at stake. While they may not like it, if Russia goes no farther, I think it will all go away with a lot of complaining and grumbling. The troop presence is not breaking any laws or agreements as I see it. The only area of discussion possibly being separation and joining Russia, but that is a difficult one as they also know it has only been out of Russia for a relatively short time.

        March 11, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
      • Aybolit

        Way to go comrade! Let's protect Russians everywhere, heck I have even a better suggestion: let's protect all the elephants (surely you know that Russia is the "Rodina Slonov" or motherland of elephants). This will give us a chance to turn every oppressed corner of earth into a blossoming paradise like Abkhazia, Karabakh or Mordovia. As a matter of fact there is a Russian village in Potsdam with a zoo near by. Anchorage is the city of Russian glory! Hang in there, brothers Eskimos, we are coming to liberate you, right after we are done washing our jackboots in the Indian Ocean.

        March 12, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
      • Today

        History is one thing, but now Crimea is Ukraine. It voted to leave USSR as Ukraine. Crimea can become an independent country, but Russia can't annex it.

        March 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
  24. Hakan

    Zakaria;You piece of nonsense c.sucking muslim

    March 6, 2014 at 12:44 am | Reply
  25. jG55

    Our country funded the current uprising…is that not invasion? Our country went into Iraq and decimated the country unprovoked. Our country went into Afghanistan to find the people who supposedly were behind 9/11 and the war goes on. We are not moral or innocent. We are the ultimate in manipulation.

    March 6, 2014 at 7:03 am | Reply
  26. Always Russian

    I am stunned how much Americans uneducated and just relay on bs "free country" brainwash. Yeah, tell me about your "democracy". Author of this article is clearly ignorant.

    March 6, 2014 at 9:42 am | Reply
  27. Aly

    he says "ONLY 60% Russian"... That's sounds like the majority to me!!!

    March 6, 2014 at 11:19 am | Reply
    • Bradmeister007

      Exactly! 60 percent is the majority, so the word "only" is inappropriate. Crimea should never have been apportioned to Ukraine in the first place back in 1954, given its longstanding historical, cultural, and strategic ties to Russia.

      March 7, 2014 at 1:15 am | Reply
  28. GM

    Has it not occurred to Mr. Zakaria that it was Crimea that was "detached" sixty years ago from Russia in a freak geopolitical accident? Imagine, for a moment, the following fantasy: Somehow, through some bizarre act of "gnostical turpitude" (to borrow Nabokov's phrase), Annapolis, MD winds up in the hands of Canada. Good, neighborly country? Sure. But how would we feel? Would we eventually be tempted to invade Canada and try to carve out parts of its territory? I sure hope not... But would we try to reclaim a key part of our Naval heritage on a small territory that was historically ours? I sure hope so.

    March 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Reply
  29. Русский

    Ну что, гаврики, вы готовы к Russia mafia, , Russian BEAR и к Русским мужикам, которые ничего не боятся?

    March 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • Boris


      March 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  30. Rick McDaniel

    Putin loses nothing.

    March 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.